The U.S. Cross-Country Ski Championships open at Kincaid Park three days into the new year. When they do, UAA’s Casey Wright will be representing her Seawolf colors as she looks ahead at representing another set of green and gold.
The Nordic skier, now in her third year of collegiate competition, has a chance to compete at the U.S. Nationals as a Seawolf, but her results at the event will help determine whether or not she will be heading to the Olympics as a part of the Australian ski team in February.
Wright is from Victoria, Melbourne and she picked up skiing at an early age. Her parents were both guides, and so she would venture into the mountains with them during the short season of the Australian winter.
“It’s very hard in Australia to find a team because it’s such a small sport,” Wright said. “So, that was where moving to the U.S. was going to help me make my next jump in terms of development.”
She began skiing for Australia in 2012 when she first qualified for the national team. As she competed in the Junior World Championships, she was able to travel and train all throughout Europe, from Sweden to Germany, all the way down to Italy. Having to travel so much to train, and the relatively small following of the sport in Australia meant college competition abroad was the next step for Wright.
“But it’s kind of hard trying to convince coaches that this girl from Australia can actually ski,” Wright said.
Wright successfully convinced UAA she could ski, and earned herself a scholarship and a team she could train and compete with as she continued into the next phase of her skiing career.
Now, she is looking toward the next potential phase in her career.
The Australian team will be sending a confirmed four Nordic skiers to the Olympics, two men and two women, and potentially two more spots could open up, regardless of gender. Wright believes she has as good a chance as anyone else to secure one of those spots.
“I feel like I’m in the best possible environment that I can be in and I think I am doing all the right things in terms of training, recovery and preparation,” Wright said. “I’ve definitely put myself in what I believe is the best position for myself.”
Like most athletes, competing in the Olympics has been a childhood dream for Wright. It didn’t hit her until last year during her collegiate season that making her way to Pyeongchang, South Korea for the 2018 Winter Olympics was an achievable goal.
“It didn’t really become secured in my mind until last season where I kind of made that next jump in ski performance. So maybe this can actually happen now, it’s not just a dream,” Wright said.
Wright’s jump in ski performance has been aided by her association with her team at UAA. She had transferred from Victoria University in Melbourne, where she competed in university games. The organization and competition was not the same as what she has experienced since her transfer.
“It was me and another snowboarder on the snow sports team. You don’t really get any coaching or training,” Wright said. “I didn’t even have a uniform. They gave me a hoodie, but you don’t race in a hoodie. So, it was like, ‘OK, I’ll see what blue things I can find and I’ll race in that.’”
As she prepares for the nationals at Kincaid, the aura of a potential invite to the Olympics isn’t lost on Wright.
“It’s the pinnacle of all sports to, not only represent your country, but represent your country on the world stage,” Wright said. “I think skiing is a hard sport in Australia just that we’re not really recognized. The majority of Australians probably don’t even know what Nordic skiing is, let alone that we have people competing on the world’s stage for it. It’s kind of the one time where people back home actually watch you on TV or actually have an idea of who you are, so it’s a little bit daunting to think about.”
Wright, who is a physical education major, plans to keep competing once she graduates in the Spring on 2019. Her goal is to become a full-time World Cup athlete. She already has her eye on the Beijing Olympics in 2022, regardless of what happens ahead of Pyeongchang games.
“I feel like I still have a lot of boxes left unticked in skiing. I’ve got a lot more I want to achieve. I really want to ski top-30 in World Cup. I think there’s only two Australians who have done that before,” Wright said. “I really just want to see where skiing can take me.”
The 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympic Games begin in February.